game technology for serious applications

immersion does not require illusion but involvement

game technology for serious applications

learning objectives

After reading this chapter you should have an idea how to approach the development of a moderately complex game, and you should also be able to discuss the notion of immersion and argue why using game technology is relevant for serious applications.

Game playing is fundamental to human life. Not only for entertainment, but also to acquire the necessary skills for survival. Game playing can take a variety of forms, but nowadays the dominant game paradigm is undoubtedly the interactive video game, to be played on a multimedia-enhanced PC or game console. Currently, games are being (re) discovered in the academic field, another serious areas of society, as excellent means for both the transfer of knowledge and, perhaps more importantly, for attitude change.

In this chapter we will look at the various issues in developing a game, and more specifically, in section 11.2 at requirements for a promotional game for our faculty and the issues that came up when giving a masterclass game development for high school students using this game. Finally, we will sketch the history of immersive systems, in particular panoramas, in section 11.3, and we will discuss how immersion is to be realized in a game context.


game playing

... in the game we confront a function of the living creature which cannot be determined either biologically or logically ...

visual culture

games are an increasingly important element in our visual culture.

game programming

game engine component(s)



what is a game?

a game is a series of processes that takes a player to a result.

interactive electronic game

A game is a play activity comprised of a series of actions and decisions, constrained by rules and the game world, moving towards an end condition. The rules and the game world are delivered by electronic media and controlled by a digital program.

The rules and game world exist to create interesting situations to challenge and oppose the player. The player's actions, his decisions, excitement, and chances, really, his journey, all comprise the "soul of play".

It is the richness of context, the challenge, excitement, and fun of a player's journey, and not simply the attainment of the end condition that determines the success of the game.


varoomthung blam

battle condition(s)

design team role(s)


  1. phase i: before space war -- hardwired
  2. phase ii: spacewar on atari -- console with game
  3. phase iii: game console and PC -- separate game development
  4. phase iv: shakedown and consolidation -- player code in data files
  5. phase v: advent of the game engine -- user level design
  6. phase vi: the handheld revolution -- the GameBoy
  7. phase vii: the cellular phenomenon -- larger installed user base
  8. phase viii: multiplayer games -- from MUD to Everquest



Screens from Samurai Romanesque.

virtual heroes

Serious games and simulations are poised for a second revolution. Today's children, our workforce and scientists are increasingly playing, learning, and inventing in visually intensive "virtual" environments. In our increasingly experiential economy, immersive educational and training solutions are needed to advance the workforce of tomorrow. Game-based learning and technologies meet this challenge.

With regard to the use of 3D we may remark that since ancient times a walk in space has served as a mnemonic device, and as such spatial memory may aid in retention and understanding, which might also provide a decisive argument for the use of 3D in aa serious game, such as a service management game!

peace maker(s)

Q: With the lion's share of strategy games on the market being devoted to ending a conflict through violence, why was it important to you to emphasize the need for a peaceful solution?
A: When we started to work on the project and looked around at other video games, we encountered the notion that war is much more challenging and conflict is essential to engage players. Many people we talked to perceived peacemaking as mere negotiations, where a group of diplomats sit at a table for lengthy discussions and sign agreements. We tried to shed light on what we see as the other side of peacemaking how challenging it is for a leader to gain trust and understanding in the face of constant violence. How difficult it is to execute concessions, while your own population is under stress or feeling despair. In a sense, peacemaking can be more complicated, sophisticated and rewarding than war making, and it is a message that we would like to convey to young adults, the future generation of leaders.


black/whitegreyscale sepia thermal


requirements game

requirements masterclass


(a) restaurant(b) restaurant(c) restaurant

technical issues

level design

To give an impression of the overall size of the VU.vmf game level, as map information we obtained 6464 solids, 41725 faces, 849 point entities, 1363 solid entities, and 129 unique textures, requiring in total a texture memory of 67918851 bytes (66.33 MB).

game modification(s)

importing models


  1. to modify an existing game level by applying different textures,
  2. to create objects within an existing game level, and
  3. (for advanced students only) to create a new level.



(a) converter(b) VMT tool(c) camera


(a) masterclass room(b) room in Hammer editor

hammer editor

Somewhat surprisingly, all students worked directly from the (paper) manual, rather than consulting the online documentation, or the help function with the tool.




To stimulate the participants in their creativity, we awarded the best result, according to our judgement, with a VU-Life 2 T-shirt and a CD with Half-Life 2. The results varied from a music chamber, a space environment, a Matrix inspired room, and a messy study room. We awarded the Matrix room with the first prize, since it looked, although not very original, the most coherent.


Media are special cases within the history of civilisation. They have contributed there share to the gigantic rubbish heaps that cover the face of our planet or to the mobile junk that zips through outer space.

dead media project

Together with like-minded people, in 1995, Bruce Sterling started a mailinglist (at that time still an attractive option) to collect obsolete software. This list was soon expanded to collect dead ideas, or dead artifacts, and systems from the history of technical media: inventions that appeared suddenly and disappeared just as quickly, which dead-ended and were never developed further; models that never left the drawing board; or actual products that were bought and used and subsequently vanished into thin air.

machines can die

Sterling's project confronted burgeoning phantasies about the immortality of machines with the simple facticity of a continuously growing list of things that have become defunct.

technology and death

Once again, romantic notions of technology and of death were closely intertwined in the Dead Media Project.


Michelle is a writer, and she writes a book about Dutch paintings. To collect necessary information, she analyses different sources about Dutch culture, many of them in Dutch language. However, being a beginner in Dutch, she often has to translate phrases from and to English. She also needs to find additional information about particular concepts and facts. Instead of using several tools, such as online dictionaries, definition books and search engines, she decides to compose a simple service that aggregates all the services she needs.



Additionally we address the issue of

service-oriented computing


camera inputvoice input news reader

analogon of reality

Certainly, the image is not the reality but at least it is its perfect analogon and it is exactly this analogical perfection which, to our common sense, photography. This can be seen as the special status of the photographic image, it is a message without a code.




... documentary modality of black and white realism ...


visual grammar

grammar goes beyond formal rules of correctness. It is a means of representing patterns of experience. It enables human beings to build a mental picture of reality, to make sense of their experience of what goes on around them and inside them.

virtual reality

the idea of virtual reality only appears to be without a history: in fact, it rests firmly on historic art traditions, which belongs to a discontinuous movement of seeking illusionary image spaces.


the concept of immersion when implemented as an artwork surrenders most of the essential properties of an artwork.

properties of artwork(s)

collective memory

it is an apparent feature of the concept of immersion that it engages with the spatial and pictorial concentration of the awareness of one's own people, the formation of collective identity through powerful images that occupy the function of memory.

ecstatic transport

using contemporary image techniques, immersive art very often visualizes elements that can best be described as Dionysian: ecstatic transport and exhilaration.



a realism is produced by a particular group as an effect of the complex of practices which define and constitute that group.


each realism has its naturalism, that is a realism that is a definition of what counts as real, a set of criteria for the real, and it will find its expression in the right, the best, the most natural form of representing that kind of reality, be it a photograph or a diagram.


dominant paradigm(s)

the dominant standard by which we judge visual realism (and hence visual modality) remains for the moment, naturalism as conventionally understood, photorealism.



mass medium

thus, one year after Monet's death and fifty years after his Impression soleil levant, a late example of modern art reached the changed artistic landscape of the 1920's, transported in a derivative of the mass medium for images in the 19th century.

new media

a consequence of the constitutive function of artistic-illusionary utopias for the inception of new media of illusion is that the media are both a part of the history of culture and of technology.

cultural convergence

the cultural convergence of art, science, and technology provides ample opportunity for artists to challenge the very notion of how art is produced and to call into question its subject matter and its meaning in society.


human aspiration(s)

telepresence also combines the contents of three archetypal areas of human aspirations: automation, virtual illusion and metaphysical views of the self.


what is being preached is the phantasm of union in a global net community, cybergnosis, salvation through technology, disembodied as a post-biological scattering of data that lives forever.


what we observe are hyperzealots of a new technoreligion running wild, zapping, excerpting and floating in cyberspace.


since the eighteenth century, aesthetic theories have regarded distance as a constitutive element of reflection, self-discovery and the experience of art and nature.


aesthetic distance is no longer tenable when artist are engaging the same systems used in general communications and research



game event description format



11. game technology for serious applications



projects & further reading

As a project, develop a non-violent game using the Source SDK. For example, you may develop an application that gives a community of users access their personal collections of photographs.

One interesting feature to explore is the use of narratives, that is a kind of guided tour that gives a user an overview of the collection of photographs by means of a story, taking (in other words) the user by the hand in navigating the gane space.

For further reading I suggest, apart from the manuals and learning materials that come with the Source SDK, books on game development such as  [Game],  [VideoGame] and  [Magic].

the artwork

  1. digital beauties -- taken from  [Beauties].
  2. Masereel, social realist works
  3. Roy Lichtenstein, 1962
  4. Masereel, social realist works
  5. images from Samurai Romanesque, see section 1.3
  6. HalfLife 2 shader programming
  7. VU-Life 2 -- opening screen
  8. VU-Life 2 -- screenshots
  9. VU-Life 2 -- screenshots
  10. VU-Life 2 -- screenshots
  11. VU-Life 2 -- tools
  12. VU-Life 2 -- tools
  13. VU-Life 2 -- masterclass
  14. diagram AMICO core
  15. diagram AMICO applications
  16. Roy Lichtenstein, 1962, Stillives
  17. Monet, Nympheas
  18. Monet, Nympheas
  19. Monet, Nympheas
  20. Web 3Di -- diagram for Webvolution
  21. signs -- abstract,  [Signs], p. 146, 147.